Kevin Scott knew the best way to elevate a program from mediocre to something much more was to earn a signature win.
He got that Thursday night.
The spirited fifth-year coach implored effort and focus from start to finish, then rejoiced with his giddy girls on their home floor. Cosumnes Oaks High School delivered a knockout of Oak Ridge in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff, making a resounding bit of school history.
Trailing early and then leading by double digits down the stretch on the strength of patience, ball movement and free throws, the No. 3-seeded Wolfpack gained a 52-41 victory over a storied program, garnering the attention of the rest of the D-I bracket in the process.
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With two playoff wins to reach the D-I semifinals, Cosumnes Oaks now has a total of three victories in program history, dating to when the school opened in 2008.
Oak Ridge coach Steve White stamped Cosumnes Oaks as legitimate. White has led a powerhouse in El Dorado Hills since 2007 to the tune of five section finals appearances, two banners and the CIF State D-I championship.
White caught a glimpse of the Wolfpack in December, when Cosumnes Oaks beat his team 47-32 to win the Oak Ridge Trojan Toss-Up.
He got another view Thursday and appreciated the efforts of an up-and-coming program.
“Oh, Kevin’s done a great job,” White said. “They’re fundamentally sound, disciplined, run a good system and have bought in. You can see it.”
Cosumnes Oaks (24-4) isn’t a big team, but it is athletic, balanced, cohesive and smart. The leader is junior guard Jasmine Hess, a ballhandler who can score inside and out. She led all scorers with 15 points.
Jaden Coleman and Kailani Fox had nine points each, and Jordyn Rosette had eight.
Marie Olson led Oak Ridge (16-13) with 14 points and Aubrielle Martin had nine, all on 3-pointers.
“We’ve had a curse the last three years,” an out-of-breath Hess said afterward. “We kept losing in the first round. Beating Oak Ridge is honestly ... it’s so exciting. I’m so happy.”
Now the real challenge looms. If Scott and company thought toppling Oak Ridge was big, imagine the vibe on campus if the Wolfpack can bounce second-seeded Folsom on Tuesday. Ranked No. 1 by The Bee for all but two weeks this season, Folsom is also enjoying its finest season. The Bulldogs, who beat No. 7 Davis 67-47 Thursday, are led by all-time program great McKenzie Forbes, a dazzling guard headed to Cal.
The top seed in the field is national power St. Mary’s of Stockton, winners of a section-best 18 section banners, including the last five in Division I. St. Mary’s, 84-39 winners over No. 9 Woodcreek, plays No. 4 Edison of Stockton, which bounced longtime power McClatchy, a five seed, 64-58.
Scott said he has observed area powerhouse programs for years, dating to his assistant coaching tour at Pleasant Grove, when the Eagles regularly faced Oak Ridge.
“We study the great programs because we want to be great,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of, or have played, some of the great area programs: Antelope, McClatchy, Oak Ridge, St. Francis. They all built us, no doubt. They all helped make us better by beating us.”
Scott grew up playing baseball in San Jose. He brought his family to Elk Grove for a fresh start, and found it in area coaching.
“Our two kids graduated from Sacramento State, and here we are now, giving back, investing in the community,” Scott said. “And we’re a family here with this team. We argue. We love each other. I request that they work hard and they do. They think of me as this crazy loud guy. They’re right!”
But there’s meaning to the madness, said Hess, the team leader.
“He’s on us all the time to share the ball, to communicate,” Hess said. “In the close games, we come together.”